Ringworm have created some of the most visceral metalcore to come out in 2014 thus far. It ends up being a somewhat ironic statement, given the the fact that Ringworm sounds so hungry and determined after being in the game for more than twenty years. Dissonant shrieks and mid-tempo chugging mesh perfectly with thrash-y riffs and well-timed solos, allowing for an album that sounds much fresher than any of its contemporaries in the scene. Vocalist James “Human Furnace” Bulloch favors a higher-pitched hardcore yell, and coupled with the raw production, this is as “metallic” as hardcore can possibly get. The no-frills approach that Ringworm applies here gives the listener a much heavier and more dense album; not one melodic chorus can be found on the entirety of Hammer of the Witch, obviously intentionally so given the band’s illustrious past as a metalcore pioneer. The band simply have not sounded more technical, more passionate, and more pissed off in a very long time.
The reality is that the marriage of these two genres haven’t been done this well in quite some time, as evidenced by penultimate track “Psychic Vampire”. Bulloch’s larynx-shredding screams punctuate the heavy riffing until the song opens up for a short-lived but enjoyable solo. The drums perform admirably, switching from unique fills to the occasional blast-beat. “Leave Your Skin at the Door” boasts a dirty-sounding bass intro that segues into several interesting tempo changes, and Ringworm proves that they are able to craft heavy songs that have a dichotomous memorable immediacy to them. The title track enters in at a breakneck speed and provides an excellent dose of riffs, as well as the Human Furnace’s best vocal performance on the entire album. The breakdowns present are more groove-based transitions than anything the band relies on once they are out of ideas (as that doesn’t happen very often here anyway). Ringworm are able to naturally provides subtle proof as to why their music is different enough to allow further listens in the details. The constant presence of audible bass and the production is raw enough to make the distorted guitars sound absolutely evil while there being enough clarity in the mix to highlight the gritty guitar solos.
The listening experience here boils down to one thing, which is essentially how invested the listener is in the sound that Ringworm cultivates on Hammer of the Witch. While they do an excellent job of standing apart from their metalcore counterparts, their formula wears a little thin over the course of the thirteen track album. It really calls into question why the inclusion of so many tracks was necessary; the longer run time actually makes the listen through a bit more monotonous. This is amplified by Bulloch’s lack of variation in the screaming department, and a bit of brevity would make the exceptional tracks on here stand out that much more. As it stands, Hammer of the Witch is another original release into their already strong discography. This angry slab of technical hardcore is certainly a worthy addition to any extreme metal fan’s library.
1. Dawn of Decay
3. Leave Your Skin at the Door
4. Exit Life
5. Psychic Vampire
6. King of Blood
7. I Recommend Amputation
8. Hammer of the Witch
9. We’ll Always Have the End
10. One of Us Is Going to Have to Die…
11. Vicious Circle of Life
12. Die Like a Pig
13. Height of Revelation
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